A worm farm project in Lavender Hill and Khayelitsha, both on the Cape Flats, has developed into an educational resource that not only teaches kids to grow their own food, but its influence is spreading into the surrounding communities.
Many parents of learners who are part of the Earthchild Project, a non-profit organisation, are now establishing their own food gardens and using worms to process their organic garbage.
The Earthchild Project was founded in 2006 to help learners develop an understanding of the environment, health and self-development.
According to environmental education coordinator Xoli Fuyani, the Earthchild Project dreams of a world where individuals are inspired to connect with themselves, each other and the environment. They also aim to develop a new generation who are conscious, confident and responsible “earth children”.
“The effect of teaching children the value of growing their own food and how to make their own compost at a young age is profound,” says Fuyani. “Our approach to education is holistic and focused on health and wellness, life skills and the environment through different programmes integrated with the schools’ curriculum.”
The programmes that they offer at schools include yoga, meditation, organic gardening and environmental education.
Ten years ago the organisation started a worm farm project as an extramural activity at schools. As the project developed, they linked it to the schools’ curriculum to help make learning fun and interactive. “We set up worm farms inside classrooms. This then becomes a tool for children to get their hands dirty, learning about earthworms by observing them at work, learning about their home, their bodies, what they eat and many more other things.”
The worm farm also teaches learners how to reuse organic waste that can benefit the earthworms. “The children learn how to reduce and reuse the school’s organic waste by feeding it to worms and watching them turn it into compost, which we then use to grow herbs inside the classroom.”
The kids help to harvest the compost from the worm farms in their classrooms and then use it to plant herbs and vegetables in plastic containers.
“When we are planting our seedlings, we wrap them in our worm compost before putting them into the ground, as the compost carries good nutrients for the plant. We also do experiments where we only feed half our plants and measure the growth,” says Fuyani excitedly.
The vegetable garden is valuable for the children, who often don’t know where the food they eat comes from.
Land is a luxury for many children who live in informal settlements, where there is no space for a garden.
“We use plastic crates which the learners bring from home or the streets. We then show them how to use the crates to make gardens. We also use old two-litre plastic bottles as vertical, indoor gardens to grow herbs.”
The worm farm project has received positive feedback from many people and especially parents who have now also joined in, says Fuyani. “We often hear stories from parents of some children starting their own food gardens at home which then becomes a resource in their families. Every day we have requests for worms as so many are eager to start worm farms at home to help reduce their home organic waste.”